Light The Lights, Crank The Music

The all night vigil beings tonight.  This isn’t going to be easy but the choice is clear:  light the lights, crank the music, sleep standing on a chair….or move.

That’s it.  No other choice.

I don’t do mice.  I don’t even do a mouse.  Cannot handle the thought let alone any physical evidence.  OK.  I can deny teeny bits of evidence by calling them crumbs of dirt from someone’s shoe, but a sighting?  An actual sighting means 9-1-1 or, at the least,  Two Men And A Truck.

It happened at 5:30 AM this day.  IT, startled by the light, did the scurry thing and darted behind the cabinet.  Not cute like Runaway Ralph or talented like The Mouse And The Motorcycle, this IT was 1/2 ounce of menace armed with all the weapons designed to cause panic–my panic.

For weeks, I have known.  Cold weather in a rural setting means that outdoor critters seek warmth.  For days, I have joked with family that I cannot do mice…that none of their suggestions were adequate…that Bob spoiled me by  handling mouse patrol…that traps were out of the question because I don’t touch traps…that it was purely a logical choice:  Mice In, Me Out.

The vigil begins.

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Mission Impossible

Once upon a time in the land of make-believe, guts and grit saved the day.  Odds against  accomplishing  the mission  stacked high enough to abolish any thoughts of success.   Not to worry.  Fiction writers yanked those boot straps, reducing  the negative to dust.  Mighty Mouse saved the day.

Christmas can be like that Mission Impossible.  We play the music.  We serve up the sentiments, act our role, play our part.  Deck the halls, make the food, arrange the beds, think the perfect gift scenario for about 11 months a year.

This time the odds against are the reality of baggage borne through years of silence, festered anger, magnified slights, painful memories.  This time there is the look and feel of grungy reality TV , every one lives but no one wins.

That expression about ‘limp with resignation’ is on the menu board today.  Remember that prayer line I like so much…”forgiveness…for what I have done and what I have failed to do”…?  I have that thought every day and November 29 marks the day that I accept that forgiveness will never happen. Won’t?  Can’t?  Does not matter.  The result is the same.  A plastic pink Christmas tree trumps boughs of green and growing holly.

If you are a Gentle Reader visiting this blog regularly, you know that death visited five weeks ago.  You know that grief  invades with zero tolerance for hopes or dreams or myths.  Death cuts that swath so well described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Death makes us impotent and raging with anger at that impotence.  Death vomits up the mass that has choked and been swallowed.

No new beginnings.  No phony fits and starts towards understanding or acceptance.  No forgiveness.   The year that Christmas did not happen?  Feels that way…a deep and empty hollow place suffocating under the weight of that  ugly pink plastic.

 

 

 

Respect

Some months ago, many blogs had my standard disclaimer:  This is a ramble, a mind trip with no planned destination.  Today is a ramble.

A wandering mind comes to so many odd junctures.  A word, a phrase turns torrent without conscious effort.  Old and seemingly solid belief systems get cracked or discarded during the wonder.

Cleaning, sorting, discarding years is inviting awe at the depth of Bob’s talents and interests.  Not only did his light stay under a barrel, but he covered the barrel with camouflage.    What he knew and what he loved, were ours alone.  He gave an amazing clarity to the concept of not caring what others thought or knew of him.  Self-Respect did not require public validation .

As Mark, my oldest son, reminds me, “Mom, you got your happily ever after.  How many people can say that? You can!”

Right.  I did get the happily ever but now I have the after. I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

Outside the glass, moonlight covers the  neglected yard with a beautiful look of snow sprinkle.   Doe and yearling stir near the giant Halloween tree, a huge Walnut that has gifted the squirrels with years of stash.

Snug in an afghan, alone, I watch for the sun to change that snow look to the sparkle of early morning.  Toys and books cover most horizontal surfaces, markers of the joy of grandchildren.  Albums opened beside me evidence years of family time, reminders of our passages as we came to this now.

This now is a quirk, a trick of time, a fixed thing but lost in a vastness that won’t give up its secrets.  Now is a month used up in a flash but seeming to go on and on— right into the now of forever.

At 3:32 this November 21, I awoke staggered with all that is mine, my very own and very personal joy, sadness, grief, comfort and my tomorrows built on this now.

My family, my adult children, their spouses and my grandchildren closed ranks protecting me with a fortress of their love, concern and their physical labor handling the details of this passage.

Friends reached across years and miles defining friendship with words and gestures of gentle comfort, the safety of our history together.

Enough.  I have enough of what handles the comfort of the body;  work, warmth, food,  safety, books, places to walk, a to-do list that marks both accomplished tasks and the beat of time.

Abundance.   I have quoted Dave Ramsey’s, “Better than I deserve” when asked that rhetorical standard, “How are you?”  And I am. So blessed, so much better than I deserve in the abundance of family and friends.

Thanksgiving marks this amazing gift that is my life.

 

 

Sam’s Day

Met my unique and wonderful daughter-in-law at the pediatrician’s office where she had scheduled back to back appointments for her little boys.  Friday is my day to play with Sam so easy to join Mom and Boys at the office where I  waited for first appointment.  Sam would leave with me and we would start our weekly “What do you want to do today?”

The drive home was longer than usual and Sam was a bit restless as we started up the winding driveway.

“Look, Nana.  Who is here?  Look at that car in your driveway.  Who is waiting for us?  Who is in the house waiting for us?”

(Bob’s car sits in his spot.  I have not found the courage to attempt a new normal and drive his car.)

“No one, honey.  No one is waiting for us.  It is just you and me…just us.”

“Maybe, Nana.  But maybe??  Maybe he is giving us a good surprise.  Maybe he will be there.  Let’s go see.  Hurry.”

Three and one half years of being Papa’s Sammy and that love is deeper than many lifetimes of love.

Quiet.  The house was quiet.  Soon we were playing trains and clock watching until time for Union Station to open.  He loves the place from checking the number on our parking place (so we pay the right slot) to the down-escalator at the end of a perfect day.

Decorating for the holiday season necessitated the closing of our first stop, The Train Museum.  Sam handled it like a trooper and we headed towards the Vortex to watch our coins spin in the black cone.

“Pat?”  A quiet voice heard over the dim of multi-hundreds of kids visiting Science City.  My most excellent friend from Kansas City, Kansas high school days was volunteering at Science City.  Know what?  She looks so gentle and lovely, so like I remember her.  DeDe said what I needed to hear…the perfect words to open the maze of New Normal.

“I decided”, she said, “that I can sit around and wait to die, or I can keep busy.”

Simple.  Direct.  Logical and my new mantra.  Thank you, De, for a wonderful day, this unusual and very special first giant step towards New Normal.

The New Normal

“You will find it’, they say to me.  A New Normal will emerge.  Time will filter the normal you know into the normal that will become.

Maybe.

The great storm has gentled a bit.  I can actually tolerate a tender memory sparked by a bit of trivia.  The deep and gut-wrenching ache is less frequent, the tears more under control.

Our bedroom wasn’t as cold this morning though I was pierced through by admitting that there just isn’t ‘anymore’.

No looks that spoke above the power of words, no phone calls on the way home from the range just to tell me when he would be home.  He won’t call to me from another room, just to make certain that I am close by.  Bob will never say, “Patty, I love you.”   I won’t feel his hand take mine for no reason except to touch one another.  Never again.

In the hospital room, we told him.  We said all the right things.  We were loving and gentle and grieving beyond what I thought humanly possible.  We touched him and our tears fell–mine wetting his face.

Did he hear us?  Did he know?  God, how I wish I could be assured of that.  That assurance is impossible.

This is the 25th day since the New Normal began.  I don’t like it.  I want what was before.   That other Normal had clutter,  annoyances that vexed us equally.  Our differences were strong.  We worked to keep our marriage unbroken and to heal what we could–tolerate what would not heal.  Now all those differences seem like wisps.

Without my children and my grandchildren I would not care to find a New Normal.  That wouldn’t matter.  They are strong and positive, loving and supporting.  My family is the marker, the definition of why life is important.  Now my need is to keep them close, to heal old hurts.   Maybe that is where the New Normal awaits.

 

Tick Tock

The year was either 1953 or ’54, early in my Kansas City, Kansas high school years.  Bob was my brother’s friend and they spent hours in the basement workshop.  Time moved and my 14-year-old heart fell in love.  When I sort photos, seeing him through the years, breathing becomes a challenge.

Circumstances changed.  Our lives went in different directions.

In 1958,  while in college, I met a good man and we planned a future together.  Five amazing children who reflect so many of the dad’s best qualities, a trove of beautiful memories, a life filled with many of those ‘for better and for worse’ moments followed.  The sadness of divorce also followed.

Within a short time, circumstances changed again and Bob reentered my life.  First love.  New love.  This time, I wasn’t a teen.  I was a package deal…five children,  an aging mother and a teaching career.   Welcome to this new world.

We lived and loved that new world.  Five beautiful grandchildren were born in our new world.  Each baby gave Bob the magic of complete,  total love and acceptance.

On October 21, Bob left us.  He died.  He went away.  Those memories everyone talks about?  Those memories that are  to bring ease?  Those memories that are  to comfort?  Not yet.  All the memories do is tear at the heart and the gut, wrenching out the huge well of missing him.

A friend  told me that I had always loved too deeply, that I needed to see life with more discretion, that I lost the ability to emotionally self protect.  Imagine that…protecting oneself from all that love has to offer.

In our church, we say a prayer asking forgiveness “for what I have done and what I have failed to do”.   The failure hurts the most, missed opportunities, deliberate decisions to slide by an opportunity, hugs not given, smiles held back, anger over stupid stuff.

Yesterday, my brother said that my Bob was his best friend, his lifetime best friend.  My own lifetime is  overflowing with gifts, the riches of my children and grandchildren,  of family, of friends, of so much more than I deserve.  I keep hearing that time will actually ease this emptiness that stands in Bob’s place. Maybe.  Tick Tock.

Tick Tock.